Since starting the Wordy Wednesday series, I’ve people linking me to their websites, their Flickr pages, and even sending me images via email to critique and ask to run through the process with them, following my simple five-step analysis.  So, I’d like to turn the tables today and share an image from a reader, going through the process with user submitted content.  This one comes from Kerry in California:

Wordy Wednesday #29: Sunrise on the Salton Sea

#1 – What rule of composition were used and why?

Right off, you can tell that the Rule of Thirds has been applied extensively in the image.  The tree coming up on the left side aligns almost perfectly to the left of the grid.  The sun just about splits the two upper nodal points, so definitely moves the eye through that area.  Finally, the angle of the line in the foreground brings in an element of depth to the photo that might otherwise be lacking.

#2 – Are any rules of composition broken?

There’s sort of an unspoken rule in photography that says to avoid centering your horizon in the frame as this has the effect of really not bringing any focus or attention to either the foreground or background as things are split too evenly.  Photographs work better when the horizon aligns to either a lower or upper third.  Kerry has opted to eschew that principle here and I think it was a good decision.  Not all rules have to be followed all the time, and here the effect of centering the horizon ensures we get just a taste of the foreground, and having more sky in the scene may not have really added much to the composition.

#3 – What camera/lens combo did I use?

In looking at Kerry’s details, this was shot with a Canon 50D, using a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 lens.  His camera settings were at ISO 400, f22, and 1/1000th of a second.  The impact of shooting at f22 allowed Kerry to get a relly nice starburst effect with the rays from the sun, and the shutter setting of 1/1000th probably made it easier to hand hold this shot.

#4 – What lighting did I use?

From looking at the scene, I don’t believe Kerry was using any lighting – this was all ambient.  I don’t see any color detail in the foreground or on the tree that would suggest the use of a light, and the sun certainly was providing enough of it’s own light.

#5 – How did I process it?

 Kerry said in his email to me that all he did in post production was a tiny bit of a clarity adjustment and minor cropping.  The cropping I think is perfect, but from my own taste, I might have tried to clean up the haze a bit more.  For Kerry, the haze may have been part of the impact he wanted in the image, but again, much of this is subjective.  My last comment would normally be to suggest that perhaps the camera could use some cleaning as there appears to be some sensor dust but the monitor I was using when this post was written is not very clean, so I couldn’t be 100% sure it was the image and not the monitor.

The last question that comes up in analyses is always one of Did You Like It?

This question always comes with a delicate line in the sand.  You never want to just tear someone apart and you don’t want to falsely praise images either just to appease their feelings on a particular image.  So, with that being said, I’ll actually offer some of my own thoughts and insights on whether or not it’s a successful image.  As something of a landscape nut myself, it’s hard for me to find a sunrise or sunset shot I don’t like.  Add to it the fact that it’s near water, and it has reflections are major points for me.  So, from that sense, I do like the image.

The haziness is not my particular style though, so for me, it was not as successful as some other sunrise/sunset shots.  It’s kind of hard to see the details with the haze too, so I would have tried to clean that out of the image during post production.  Since I always like to end reviews on a positive note, I will say that what I really liked though that is often missing from landscape style shots like this was a bit of the foreground.  So many people will try to make a landscape scene just about the water, the setting sun, and the colors in the sky.  Because that is the “norm”, it was nice to see the foreground inclusion.  I think countered the intensity of the sun and its reflection on the water bringing better balance and composition to the image.

Those are my thoughts…what about yours?  Did you like it?  Not like it?  What worked for you?  What didn’t?  What would you do differently?


Got an image of your own you’d like me to review in the Wordy Wednesday series?  Send me a link to the photo – it can be from your own website, from FLickr, or you can email me a full size image.  Please make sure the image does not exceed 1000px on the longest side.  You can send images to me at jason <at> canonblogger <dot> com.

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2 thoughts on “Wordy Wednesday #29: Sunrise on the Salton Sea

  1. Hi Jason, I’ve got a photo you may be interested in reviewing. Its a shot I took of Mt. Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake up in Washington. Many photographers over the years have taken photos from this viewpoint over the years due to its incredible view and easy access. I thought I’d throw this one your way as see if you’d like to review it for your wordy wednesday column. Heres a little background info on the photo: EOS 50D with 17-40mm F4L lens mounted on a tripod. ISO 100, remote release. Shot is an HDR composing of three different exposures. I also used a graduated neutral density filter when taking the shots.

    1. Sounds great – could you send me the image, or a link to it? I’ll get it out in a future post…

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